Monthly Archives: February 2012

I CAN FEEL IT WHEN YOU LIE TO ME

More driving on the west coast has yielded more musical surprises.  This time, we were checkin’ out some southern California cats that I’ve been a fan of for a while now, but had neglected their more recent album, so I happened to hear this song for the first time yesterday.

Sa-Ra – Just Like A Baby

Sa-Ra has done a better job than almost anybody at taking funk into the 21st century, but this track happens to be reaching more into the past than in the future.

Sly & the Family Stone – Just Like A Baby

I feel like I know this song inside and out, it’s from possibly my favorite Sly Stone album, There’s A Riot Goin’ On.  And interestingly enough, this is not the only modern-day interpretation of a song from this album.  Check out this time warp.

Sly & the Family Stone – Runnin’ Away

Big Boi, Sleepy Brown, & Killer Mike – Runnin’ Away

And if you want a little more convincing about the significance of this album, you should check out what ?uestlove has to say about it in this really interesting article Matt turned me onto about funk/soul/hip-hop concept albums.  Maybe I need to not avoid Pitchfork so hard, that article is damn interesting.

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HOW CAN I KILL THIS ODOR AND PURCHASE ME A LINCOLN?

Oh! Some more Bay Area rap connections while I’m out here. Me and Amber went on a pretty long drive through the country to a town called San Rafael (pronounced ruh-FELL, I’m told) and one of the things we listened to on our journey was this juicy tune.

E-40 – Ballin Outta Control (feat. Levitti)

I bet my little 4th grade mind would have been about as blown by that song when it first came out as my 27 year old mind is by this track we listened to on the trip back, which I think must be meant as a tribute to his Bay Area big homie.

Lil’ B – Basedgods My Name

In between hearing these songs we came across a copy of Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuffon vinyl in a Goodwill (no, I didn’t buy it) and some weird chocolate wafer candy whose motto was “Say Chair-Old For Finest Flavor“. This place is fuckin weird.

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YOU AIN’T GOTTA PROVE YOU HARD, THAT’S IN YOUR HEART

Man I’m real sorry for slackin so hard the past week or so.  It’s been difficult to find time and inspiration to write about the stuff I usually write about on here because I’ve just been in such different circumstances for the past week.  I was staying at my sister’s beautiful house with her beautiful new baby girl just living it up domestic-style nonstop.  It is definitely an experience I’ll never forget, I’ve never spent that much time with a child so small before, and finding out how to interact with this tiny new life was an experience that I’ve never even been close to feeling before.  I loved every minute of it.

What I wasn’t doing much of was listening to music.  They just don’t listen to much music in that house in general, so I didn’t want to be too overbearing with the musical selections I made, and I’m pretty certain they don’t have much genuine fondness for rap, so I was playing a lot of older jazz and stuff along those lines.  I certainly love that music too, but I just don’t have as much to say about it I guess, and it isn’t as interestingly connected with other music and stuff like rap is, so I just haven’t had much to say on here that whole time.  Thanks for stickin’ with me though and checking back, I plan on getting back on track as soon as possible.

Now I’m in California for the next week or so, in a completely different but no less loving situation than last week, and rap music is much more accepted and appropriate in these surroundings than in the suburbs of the Pacific Northwest.  So I’ll just toss up this little video for a song that’s felt especially right in the specific place I’m in right now.  It’s really cool to me how listening to music from a certain place really feels right in that place.  I remember visiting Wills and Draper and Olivia in Georgia a few years back and I’ve never been to a place where Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik felt more appropriate.  This song feels just as appropriate up here.

Main Attrakionz – Diamond of God

Huh, I think I wrote about Main Attrakionz last time I came to California too.  Ah well.

 

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RAPPERS AND MOVIES

You don’t have to listen to much rap to hear about a billion references to Scarface, Goodfellas, and movies of that type, but this Vibe article just came out asking what non-gangster movies they were really into, and it had some kinda interesting stuff in it.  I do have a couple qualms with some of how it was treated; many rappers still chose pretty gangster/crime movie titles (Juice, Mean Streets, New Jack City, etc.) and for an article that’s supposed to be interesting because it surprises you with “soft” movies being appreciated by people with very “hard” personas, they asked a fair amount of rappers who weren’t that “hard” to begin with: Common, Q-Tip, etc.  But there still were some interesting choices, Big K.R.I.T. chose There Will Be Blood, and for a pretty interesting reason, and my favorite was Sean Price, who chose Good Will Hunting.

I was real smart in school. I used to be really kind of a nerd almost when I was young, like grade school. I was in the top of my class always and I was into video games. But then by the time I was fourteen I was selling crack. That’s why I relate to that movie. A lot of smart poor kids who never get a chance because of their wild upbringing.

I think this is the kind of stuff that article was fishing for, and I really like that answer a lot.  I’ve always liked that movie too but I never thought about the part of me liking rap being at all related to the part of me liking Good Will Hunting, that’s pretty interesting to me.  But he brings up a really good point and it’s cool that he could relate to a character like that.

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I FELT ALL FLUSHED WITH FEVER

Anybody remember wayyyy back to Rap Journey #2?  It all revolved around this little sitar-sounding sample that I’d spotted in a couple places, all of them very awesome.  Well today I got a little missing piece of that whole puzzle I was trying to put together in that post.  I was reading this interview with Jerry Wonder, who was the main producer for the amazing Fugees album The Score because this week marks the 16th anniversary of the release of that album, and he mentions how that sample I was talking about got used in “Killing Me Softly“.

Some idea came up where we just said “You know what, let’s see how we can create break beats.” And of course, we all love A Tribe Called Quest and we went in like “Okay, let’s cut that sample.” And that’s what we did.

So it definitely was not coincidental, The Fugees were just super into Tribe at the time and wanted to use some stuff they were using.  That’s cool to know, I think.  Check out the rest of that interview if you’re at all a fan of that album, there’s even more really interesting stuff he mentions in it (like Akon being involved?).

And if you’re not into that album, maybe you should watch this video and rethink your position.

The Fugees – Fu-Gee-La

 

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LIFE AND LOVE ARE THE SAME

Sorry for being gone for a couple days there y’all, but I had a little traveling to do and couldn’t really make any time to put anything up here.  I just got to Seattle last night to visit my sister and meet my sweet tiny awesome perfect little baby niece for the first time, and I have to say it was a moving experience to say the least.  To have a 2-month-old child fall asleep in your arms is one thing, and to know that that child has a natural-born connection to you in a very direct, personal, familial way makes it take on even deeper value.  There’s really no feeling I’ve ever had quite like it, and I’m thankful for all the people that allowed this trip of mine to happen so I could experience these things.  It’s gonna be a magical week.

Stevie Wonder – Isn’t She Lovely

Sorry Beavs, I know you can’t stand that song.

She’s not even my kid or anything, but I feel like I got a little taste of what Stevie’s talkin’ about in this song.

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RAP JOURNEY #13 – FROM GUCCI MANE TO BIRDMAN & LIL’ WAYNE

Yeeeahhhhhh… I’ve been lookin forward to Gucci Mane’s new mixtape since I first heard about it a couple months back.  The couple videos I saw leading up to it were real promising, and when I finally got to sit and listen to the whole thing yesterday I was real pleased.  It’s tight.  Possibly the most surprising track on there for me is “Get It Back“; if you’ve ever played Tetris before you’ll probably be pretty surprised too.  Hearing that song for the first time and also hearing this song for the first time real soon after made me wanna put together a video game-centered rap mix, that would be so cool.  Mike, I’m lookin’ in your direction…  But that’s not the song I meant to talk about.

The first track of the tape, after the intro, is this song.  Check it.

Gucci Mane – Back In ’95

Like I said, I was excited about this tape comin’ out already, but I had no idea the first song on there would make reference to one of my favorite groups of all time.

UGK – Pocket Full Of Stones

And it’s cool Gucci chose this song of UGK’s to reference, because it gives me the chance to bring up this other song that re-imagines “Pocket Full Of Stones” in a slightly different way.

Birdman & Lil’ Wayne – 1st Key

I’m a total sucker for when rappers are rapping and then a little sample pops in to finish a line, it fuckin’ gets me every time.  And this is one of my favorite examples of this phenomenon I think, they do a really good job with it.  Word is they’ve got a new album comin’ out soon too… very exciting.

Hey this one stayed totally within the confines of the rap world, we didn’t get any soul/funk/whatever samples at the core of all this, that’s interesting.  Is that the first time that’s happened?  I think it is.  Cool.  See y’all!

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THAT’S WHAT YOU SHOULDA DONE ON THIS BEAT, MOTHAFUCKA

Rappers, like non-rappers, often get in disagreements with each other.  They talk shit on each other.  They make fun of each other.  And it’s been going on for a long time.  To me, a lot of it isn’t that interesting, I like it better when people are gettin’ along.  But every now and then it gets especially pointed or clever in-your-face, and I have to say I really do enjoy those moments at times.  Like the shit Jay-Z and Nas used to talk on each other is pretty amazing, and they weren’t making little YouTube videos or bootleg street releases of it, they had it on legit albums.  These dudes I’m about to bring up are more on the underground/YouTube tip with their shots, but I still think it’s pretty notable.

See a few months ago, David Banner made this song and video commenting negatively on a lot of stuff newer, younger rappers were doing and saying.

David Banner – Swag

He has a lot of complaints on this track, but it’s pretty obvious one of his main targets is young Lil’ B.  The “Woop!  Swag!” chant in the chorus couldn’t be more blatant.  Now this is far from the first time the BasedGod has been attacked by an older-generation rapper, and it’s also far from the first time he’s responded.  But the response he gives here, I think, is the best I’ve seen him do.

Lil’ B – I Own Swag

Here’s why I think it’s especially awesome:  he uses the same beat as the song that’s dissing him, so he’s using the forces that were stacked against him as fuel for his own reply.  Much like many in the black community’s re-appropriation of “nigga” or B’s famed switch-up on the meaning of “based“, this tactic shows a very clear lack of fear for whoever is attacking.  It’s a very effective way to take the wind out of the sails of some aggressive force, and in this case it’s especially pointed by making the listeners’ obvious next question be: “Who did it better?”  “Who brought more to that beat?”  “Who knocks it out of the park?”  And it doesn’t even matter what you think the answer to that question is, the fact that it’s being brought up calls into question the power and force of the attacker.

When I first heard this, it reminded me of this little exchange a couple years back.

Jay-Z – D.O.A.

Lil’ Wanye – D.O.A.

Another great example of the same phenomenon.  My favorite part about both of these is how they respond: they kind of don’t.  Weezy and B don’t pick apart the attacks thrown at them and try to address each one, they don’t even really give them the time of day.  By not acknowledging the legitimacy of the complaints brought up against them, they dodge all kinds of bullshit bickering and petty disputes.  Each of them just take the track that tried to tear them down and use it not to refute the talking points brought up, but just to rap awesomely and talk about how amazing they are.  To me that’s like taking the knife from your opponent’s hand and instead of turning it on them, just laughing and tossing it aside.  Feel how you want about any of these rappers and their opinions of each other (I actually really like all of them a lot), but I think the way these dudes have responded to the criticism leveled on them from the older generation is pretty awesome, and worthy of some admiration.

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FOR THE GOOD TIMES (PART 8)

Ok I gotta stop doing these.  There’s just no end to the awesome shit I could post in this series, so I just encourage all of you to watch some related videos to all the ones I already put up, and watch plenty of the Soul Train lines that I didn’t put up, because they’re all amazing and totally worth your time.  Let’s not let this awesome thing Don Cornelius created die with him.  I’m gonna leave you where we started on this whole expedition: in the capable hands of Al Green, hope you’ve enjoyed it.  RIP Don, forever.

Al Green – Love & Happiness

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FOR THE GOOD TIMES (PART 7)

The hip-hop performances continued for a while on Soul Train, and it featured some pretty iconic dudes.

Kurtis Blow – The Breaks

Run-DMC – Hit & Run

I think there’s a dude dressed like the Tin Man in the crowd for that one.  Crazy.  I wish I could find the Kurtis Blow interview on the internet someplace, but I can’t.  Here’s another Run-DMC one though, which is pretty cool.

I think a lot of “conscious rap” puritans should remember what Run says about hip-hop in this interview: it’s party music, it’s funky, and everybody can dance to it.  I love it when rap talks about cultural and political issues too, for sure, there’s always a place for that.  But we should never forget that rap started out as fun, party music.  Dance music.  That’s what it is at its heart, from the beginning.

It’s also interesting to see how these dudes respond to the questions put to them vs. how the previous interviews have gone.  It probably says something about the communities where those artists came from that they respond so differently.  It’s not like Run-DMC are like the roughest street rappers ever by any means, but I would imagine that their upbringing was more difficult in a lot of ways than, say, Curtis Mayfield’s.  There was probably more blatant racism and oppression going on in those 70s soul singers’ childhoods, which I would never describe as “easy”, but the state of poverty and desperation that the New York youth suffered in the 70s leading into the 80s probably led the average black kid from those areas to be a little more defensive and not so forthcoming with personal information and feelings than a man born 10 years earlier, you know?  And the crowd is way different too, much more raucous and uncontrolled.  It’s pretty interesting to see that difference, and I of course don’t know any of these dudes personally so it’s all a bunch of guesswork on my part, but I think there’s somethin to it.  Maybe?

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